Max Blumenthal has spent considerable time in Israel and has written a new book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and he says that there is an increased right-wing trend in Israel, and that intolerance and outright racism are taking hold, even among the secular youth, and that these disturbing trends are being encouraged by the central institutions of Israeli society.
According to the book’s description:
As Blumenthal reveals, Israel has become a country where right-wing leaders like Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu are sacrificing democracy on the altar of their power politics; where the loyal opposition largely and passively stands aside and watches the organized assault on civil liberties; where state-funded Orthodox rabbis publish books that provide instructions on how and when to kill Gentiles; where half of Jewish youth declare their refusal to sit in a classroom with an Arab; and where mob violence targets Palestinians and African asylum seekers scapegoated by leading government officials as “demographic threats.”
Blumenthal says that he was most surprised by the ubiquity and banality of the racism that he found in Israel and the fact that this highly disturbing trend has not registered in the US media. Alex Kane, in an interview with Blumenthal titled Exposing the Dark Underbelly of Israel: The Horrors Your Tax Dollars Support, “details the horrific reality Israel has created for the Palestinian people.”
Blumenthal expands on what his book says and why he wrote it.
I wrote this book because I wanted to show Americans what they’re paying for. Every American’s relationship to Israel can be summed up as money for nothing and checkpoints for free. We’re giving them $30 billion over the next 10 years to guarantee their qualitative military edge over all other countries.
And the other reason is much more simple: that we are paying for the only open ethnocracy in the world, and its entire existence and its domination and control over the lives of millions of Palestinians and the exclusion of millions more Palestinians simply because they’re not Jews. The whole fate of all these people who are living between the river and the sea, mired in misery and refugee camps, is in the hands of the American people and Washington.
And while Israel plants non-indigenous trees over destroyed Palestinian villages to conceal its own crimes of expulsion and dispossession, the Israel lobby in the United States is attempting to erect a curtain of silence around this conversation we’re having. So what I’ve done with this book is clinically detail the facts on the ground that have been concealed from Americans through intimidation and conspiracy of silence. I don’t want just to pull back the curtain a little bit, I want to tear it down.
Blumenthal is a well-known observer and writer on politics, practicing a form of journalism where he spends a lot of time with the people he is studying, getting to know them, and letting them speak for themselves so as to understand better what drives them. His previous work such as Republican Gomorrah focused on the growing influence of the radical Christian right in the Republican party in the US and was a bestseller. He says that he used the same investigative technique for this book as he used for the earlier one, immersing himself in the group he was studying so that he could try and understand them up close. But because the result this time is critical of Israel’s policies, many major news outlets in the US, even those ostensibly considered ‘liberal’, have refused to review it, since many of the people are PEPs (Progressive Except for Palestine).
And through my book Republican Gomorrah I was able to detail the psychology of the Christian right and compose a book that wasn’t your typical political gotcha polemic. It was much deeper than the pulp that is usually marketed to liberals. At the same time, a lot of people who were progressive Democrats, who really represent the party base, the people who watch Maddow who are like 50 and older, they loved what I had to say when they heard me on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air. They were the ones who showed up at my talks and made my books a bestseller.
But on this book tour, I don’t expect that much fresh air. Terry Gross has refused to have me on, and a lot of other hosts have just basically helped stitch the fabric of this curtain of silence we mentioned before.
I was recently told by the editor of a progressive publication that, I, unlike other writers, have to be extra-careful with everything I do when they publish me because they are terrified of what could happen to them if I get a fact or two wrong. So even before publishing me they have surrendered to the paper tiger of the Israel lobby.
The other thing that’s interesting is how reluctant liberal Zionists are to engage with me. I invited Peter Beinart to participate in my opening event and he refused and he’s refused at other times to participate in panels with me.
Blumenthal talks about the steady dispossession of the Palestinians, the deliberate effort to make their lives so miserable so that they will leave.
My time in Jaffa, this beautiful seaside place, was a generally depressing time. Everywhere I looked I saw the effects on the Palestinians who had remained, which is that they’re resorting to the black market to survive, mired in poverty, they can’t get permits to build their house, there are 500 standing eviction orders in this community, and they’re being heavily gentrified out of their own neighborhoods.
So you would see the legacy of the Nakba in your daily life. The Nakba is a continuous process of dispossession, and I wouldn’t have to go into occupied territory to see homes get bulldozed. This happens all the time inside the Green Line to Bedouins, to Palestinians who build without permits because they can’t get them. I witnessed bulldozed homes in the Lod ghetto, just 15 minutes east of Tel Aviv.
He talks about the astounding racism that he found among young people in Jerusalem and what it says about the state of Zionism, some of which was shown in a short video titled Feeling the Love in Jerusalem that was released some time ago. (Caution: Strong racist and sexual language.) It was banned by YouTube, Vimeo, and Huffington Post so Joseph Dana, one of the filmmakers, has hosted it himself.
There were two components of that video which needed to be taken seriously but which were not, and those who condemned it did all they could to prevent that message from setting in. It was that Zionism in its current phase provokes an unending moral free-fall in Jewish life, in world Jewry, and it’s had an extremely toxic effect on certain sectors of Jewish American life. And these kids you saw in the video were perfect examples of it — they don’t see anything wrong with blending the lessons of the Holocaust into calls for assassinating Obama and carrying out genocide on the Palestinians.
The second serious point we wanted to make is that this kind of incitement leads to physical action, and in Zion Square, where we filmed it, a year later, Jamal Julani, a teenage Palestinian kid, was beaten into a coma by dozens of Jewish youth who had heard he made a pass at a Jewish girl. It was like being in 1940s Alabama, being in central Jerusalem. And we had tried to warn the American public with this video, and warn the Jewish world, that this area of central Jerusalem, which they consider to be a spiritual home of the Jewish people, is also a mecca of racist incitement and nationalistic violence. We were ignored and our worst fears were realized.
He talks about the fact that young Jews in Israel who cannot stand this growing racist ethos are simply packing up and leaving the country in droves and ending up in places that you would not expect.
The last chapter of my book describes a major debate that’s riveting Israel right now. Not only do one million Israelis live outside Israel, but the destination of choice for young Israelis who are educated and secular and cosmopolitan is the place where the Final Solution was planned: Berlin. And at least 15,000 young Israelis are living in Berlin. That’s a massive community of expats in a city like that. They get citizenship there and they love it. They don’t want Netanyahu’s doom and gloom. They don’t want to live the spirit of the Holocaust every day. And most of all, they don’t want to control other people who they could just as easily see as their friends and neighbors. And so they’re leaving. They want light and justice and some of them might even want to embrace more positive aspects of Jewish values than those taught to them by the Jewish state. This exodus is going to continue as long as the present system is in place in Israel.
Here Blumenthal is interviewed on Democracy Now!.
I haven’t read the book yet. I have ordered it and will write more about it once I’ve had a chance to do so.
I attended Jeff Halper’s talk last evening. He is an Israeli who has lived almost all his life there and he reinforced many of the things Blumenthal said. I will give a summary of his presentation when I have the time to write it up.